Would E. B. White Have Blogged?

Unquestionably, yes. I am certain that if EBW were beginning his career as a writer today instead of in the mid-1920s, he would have become one of the English language’s most adept and respected bloggers. He lived to see himself acclaimed as one of the last century’s great literary voices, but he recognized that his favorite genre, the essay, made him as “a second-class citizen” among writers. What a pity that he did not live to see blogging re-invent the essay and find it more practitioners and broader audiences! Read how he describes the “essayist,” in the foreword to his 1977 collected essays, and substitute “blogger:”

The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest.


Yet, unlike many of today’s legion of bloggers, he was self-aware, and wary, of the egoism that fuels the essayist’s impulse:

I think some people find the essay the least resort of the egoist, a much too self-conscious and self-serving form for their taste; they feel that it is too presumptuous of a writer to assume that his little excursions or his small observations will interest the reader. There is some justice in their complaint. I have always been aware that I am by nature self-absorbed and egotistical; to write of myself to the extent that I have done indicates a too great attention to my own life, not enough to the lives of others.

Up to now I have resisted the impulse to blog for this very reason. It just seemed to license an unhealthy level of self-absorption. Just as I’m not one to wear my heart on my sleeve, I don’t foist my opinions on others either. But reading EBW’s essays makes me want to voice my reactions and appreciation, the way I might have left him comments had he blogged his essays instead of publishing them in The New Yorker. (In EBW’s era, the NYer did not print letters to the editor, which is a shame.) So I have embarked on this blog in the self-effacing spirit of EBW and with the purity and candor of his words to guide me.

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1 Response to “Would E. B. White Have Blogged?”


  1. 1 brother ricky December 26, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    You may have this egoist brother as your most frequent replier, but it doesn’t diminish the value of what you write for yourself and anyone else who likes to read, either for entertainment (to get out of their own world) or for enlightenment (as a means of stimulating their own reflections). I have tried to grow more aware of the egotistical side of sharing my own opinions, and more solicitous of others. I think most people are self-absorbed, but wear it very differently. Some of us seem more so than others as we like to communicate what we may be thinking, feeling or imagining. Without that communication, we hardly know where we are. So it is about survival, as is so much of what we do unconsciously.
    You have a wonderful ability to reflect on your surroundings and the people in them – an ability you developed as a teen, I believe, probably by writing more than by talking (you were a shy girl, with your mother’s modesty and natural social reticence). I think this process may be helpful for you and open up new doors, of perception and, perhaps, of profession. And, like it or not, of communication, at least with me! You can’t possibly bore me out of touch!


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